They needed a freebie to get this done, bring on Game 2. Final Score: 8-6 Avalanche
Coming into this series against the Colorado Avalanche, we all knew how good the opponent was going to be but that our boys are also playing some pretty damned good hockey right now. Even though basically every pundit or expert picked the Avalanche to win, I found myself totally unphased by those predictions since we basically got the same disrespect in Round 2 against Calgary. So could we pull this off again? I certainly believe so. But before we could even think about winning four games, the first step was to get a strong start here in the first one. So when Kane opened the scoring after RNH put him in all alone, I felt like the boys got the exact kickoff that they needed. Unfortunately, the lead didn’t last long, though, as the Avs were able to tie the game only 36 seconds later in what was basically another version of the same instant rebound story we saw throughout the Battle of Alberta. As much as it was annoying to see the Avs tie the game so quickly, the real bad news came as a result of the Oilers seeming content to watch the last half of the period and that allowed Colorado to tag them with a pair (even though one of them looked offside to me but still counted anyway).
Heading into the second period, the Oilers needed to do a much better job of not only defending in their own zone but finding ways to produce at the other end of the ice. But even before I finished writing that last sentence, the Avalanche were able to extend their lead on the power play after the Oilers were penalized on that mindboggling failed coach’s challenge. Either way, having that call go against us meant a chance for Colorado to extend their lead, and all of a sudden, we’re talking about another nightmare start to the period for Edmonton. As much as it was nice to see the boys respond with a quick goal by McLeod to crawl back into the fight, that was about where the good news ended in the middle frame. From there the Avalanche tacked on three straight markers to extend their lead to four goals, and if I’m being honest, I wasn’t exactly feeling so frisky about our chances to come back with a hole like that on the board. It was the kind of acceptance I hadn’t felt in a while, but if the Oilers could just find a way to make things interesting with the time they had left then I’d feel a lot better about what happened here.
Down by a field goal with 20 minutes to play, I wasn’t exactly expecting the Oilers to come back but rather was hopeful that they’d find a way to make it close. I thought that if they could get a quick one to start the period that they’d still have plenty of runway left to try and push this thing into overtime, and almost exactly as I had hoped, Derek Ryan was able to pull his team back to within a pair with plenty of time on the clock. Hope will never die, amirite? And with Koskinen making some big saves down the stretch to give his team a chance, I started to believe in the impossible. So when Ryan Nugent-Hopkins scored on the power play with over seven minutes left on the clock, I started to believe that we were going to make some magic happen. Unfortunately, the boys ran out of time to get the tying goal and while that absolutely sucks, I’m choosing to admire this team’s resilience rather than focusing on a call gone wrong as a Flames fan would. At the end of the day, the Oilers lost this game because they made too many mistakes and not because they were on the wrong side of a horrible call against.
The way I’m choosing to look at this game is that the Oilers were one shot away from tying a game against the Avs when they were down by four goals. Heads up after this one, boys, they needed a freebie to get the job done. Bring on Game 2.
THE BRIGHT SIDE
- Evander Kane opened the scoring (1-0) with a perfectly placed wrister above Kuemper’s glove hand after Nugent-Hopkins fed him with a backhand saucer pass that put him in all alone on Kuemper.
- Zach Hyman tied the game (2-2) in the dying seconds of the first period after Kulak found him with a perfect pass near the side of the net, deflecting in another goal for a sixth straight game.
- Ryan McLeod halved Colorado’s lead (4-3) after jumping on a loose puck in the crease after Foegele’s shot fell right in front of Kuemper and the goalie was unable to find it.
- Connor McDavid pulled the Oilers back to within three (7-4) with a wrister into what was basically an empty cage after Draisaitl found him with plenty of open ice in the circle and a lot of net to shoot at. Connor won’t miss from there very often.
- Derek Ryan pulled the Oilers back to within two (7-5) on a snipe from the slot after the fourth line got the cycle going down low in the Colorado zone and were rewarded with a big goal for their efforts.
- Ryan Nugent-Hopkins cut Colorado’s lead in half (7-6) on the power play after Draisaitl found him with a perfect pass as he was sneaking towards the front of the net. Once the pass got to him, RNH one-touched a perfect shot past Francouz.
- Mikko Koskinen came into this game in horrible circumstances but did a phenomenal job of giving his team a chance to claw their way back into the mix. From the time he went in until the final buzzer rang, Kostco made plenty of solid saves and that couldn’t have been easy after sitting on the bench for the last couple of weeks. Koskinen finished the night with 20 saves and a .952 save%.
- The Oilers managed to get one goal on their two chances with the man advantage, and that’s encouraging to see after they struck out a little too often for my liking against Calgary.
- Oilers finished the night at 54% in the faceoff circle.
THE FACE PALMERS
- Game 1s are our kryptonite.
- Only 36 seconds after Kane’s opener, J.T. Compher tied the game (1-1) on a perfectly executed 2-on-1 after Newhook found him with a cross-ice pass in the high slot that he buried over a sprawling Smith. I’m not sure what Keith was doing on this play but he didn’t really take the pass or the shooter and I’m gonna suggest he’d want a mulligan on this play. Compher added another goal (6-3) near the midway point of the second period with a blast up high that Smith was unable to catch or handle.
- Nathan MacKinnon gave the Avs the lead (2-1) late in the first period after he blew past Darnell Nurse on the outside and chipped the puck through Smith who was trying to poke check. I don’t know how MacKinnon had that much time and space to pick up speed through the neutral zone but that’s what happened and he made the Oilers pay for it.
- HOW TF WAS CALE MAKAR’S GOAL (3-2) NOT OFFSIDE?! Horrible. Even the explanation that he dumped the puck in and that’s why it was a good call sounded like it came from someone that gets colouring books from Christmas.
- Nazem Kadri extended the lead to two goals (4-2) only 32 seconds into the second period after he found a loose puck near the crease and lifted it up and over Smith who was out of position after the initial shot. So basically the Makar no-goal that was a goal ended up costing the Oilers two because the Avs were able to score on the resulting power play. Happy day.
- Mikko Rantanen restored the Avs’ two-goal lead (5-3) only a minute and change after McLeod cut the lead in half after he took a pass in the high slot and snapped a wrister up and over Smith on the blocker side.
- Andrew Cogliano put Colorado up by a field goal (7-3) on the back of another perfectly executed 2-on-1 that saw the Avs break into the zone with speed, connect on a clean pass, and make the Oilers look foolish in the process.
- Gabriel Landeskog iced the game with an empty-netter (8-6) in the dying seconds of the third period.
- Seeing as we all knew that the Avs were going to come out flying, we needed Mike Smith to have a strong start in Game 1 but for the second straight series, the veteran netminder found himself on the bench before the midway point. That’s not to say that all six goals were on Smith — Gord knows the team in front of him wasn’t anywhere close to good enough — but I don’t think anyone will feel satisfied by how things went here in the opener. Smith finished the night with 19 saves and a .760 save%.
- This was not Darnell Nurse’s game in any way shape or form, and it honestly looked like he was overthinking almost every play in his own zone.
- Duncan Keith has been pretty good throughout the playoffs but I didn’t like his decision making early in this hockey game.
Hopefully Fail Makar
— x-TommyGuns (@big_Tobias4) June 1, 2022
— a🍄 (@allgarbitch) June 1, 2022
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